Saturday, June 02, 2007

You See the Garbage Can? Turn Left...

'Twas a ragged week to top all ragged weeks, and a story about it will be told.

About how with the WSOP imminent and family responsibilities at hand, I decided a last-ditch run to Wisconsin to establish back-up Internet connections --- and visit family --- was the best solution to a difficult problem. About how that didn't go as planned, originally, and I opened my behind-the-scenes WSOP duties from a hotel room in Minocqua, WI. About a late-night drive to safer sanctums where I ending up making a U-turn after I'd given up all but the last bit of hope.

But not today, at least not in this post. This one I'll have a bit of different fun with. It's sort of a takeoff on Shrinky's ongoing series of Las Vegas poker room reviews that are published on a weekly basis over at PokerNews. Lessee... title...

"Northwoods Poker --- Hot Times at Lake of the Torches Casino"

A bit commercial-y, but remember, this is a first draft; it'll do, right?

Lake of the Torches Casino is one of the mid-sized Indian casinos in Wisconsin, not on a par with Potawotami in Milwaukee or Ho-Chunk at Baraboo near the Dells or Oneida Bingo & Casino over at Green Bay, or maybe even Turtle Lake Casino off yonder in, you guessed it, Turtle Lake. (Good food there.) That said, Lake of the Torches (the translated name of Lac du Flambeau, WI), the small reservation town where the casino resides) is not a tiny casino by any means, and there are a few of those scattered around the state as well.

Lake of the Torches does okay in the summer months from the Chicago/Milwaukee resort-and-cottage crowd, and there's enough deep money scattered around the Northwoods to at least let the place survive the winter months. Same thing with Watersmeet (up dere in Yooper country) and Mole Lake, among the other casinos that bracket the heart of Wisconsin's lake country.

It's my old stomping grounds. My sister and her husband live up here, my parents have owned a small bit of land up here for decades, and this is home country for me. Cold and wet snowy five or six months a year, but home country nonetheless. And I hadn't been up here for two years, for a lot of reasons. In the duration, Lake of the Torches joined the parade and decided to spread poker. Me, stranded temporarily without Internet, had little else to do but go check it out.

I drove out to the casino after giving up on the Internet thing for the night, intent on at least enjoying the casino's buffet dinner. (The buffet was okay, not great; it's usually pretty good but it can be erratic.) But that came just after scoping out the 'room' and the special Thursday afternoon tourney for the regulars, a $50+5 or $50+10 thing limited to 40 spots and with $2,000 paid out to the top four spots. Run in a back room --- I've seen illegal games with bigger spreads.

How 'back room' is back room? Let's put it this way --- despite knowing this casino like the back of my hand, and receiving specific directions... I couldn't find it. I finally broke into a group of waitresses/bus staff standing outside the entrance to the main (but cozy) 'entertainment' hall of the casino, where an 8th-grade graduation party and dance was going on. Yeah.... Welcome to the Northwoods and the res, friends; that's how it rolls up here.

Anyhow, I asked if one of them could direct me to the poker tournament, and one of the girls,quite eager to get away from the boss-lecture going on, eagerly volunteered to march me the thirty feet over to the start of a narrow service hallway --- quite literally with a mop and bucket leaning against the wall down at the far end. 42 inches of custodial clearance at its finest... meaning the hallway, not the mop. "You see the garbage can?" said the worker, indicating a small, black, upright receptacle outside an open door halfway down; light spilling out from within. "Turn left."

I sauntered in. Two tables on the left, two on the right, with a desk in the center against the far wall for the tourney director. About a dozen of the 40 players already had been eliminated, and it was soon to be 13 --- my brother-in-law Brad was all-in at that moment with a Big Slick that the board didn't help.

Buh-bye, tourney room. Dinner time next. We decided, though, to register for the cash game in the 'regular' room, way up at the front of the casino. Lake of the Torches' poker room is right at the front of the casino, in what might turn out to be a premier spot once the casino's renovation is complete, making it an inviting draw for the newbies and the casual visitors. For me, though, it's just a slightly lengthened walk, since I never park anywhere near the front entrance, having learned better years ago.

Dinner, meh. The roast was okay but the fish were dry as hell. (Yes, I'm proletariat. I'll mix.)

And on to a short session of poker. The poker room at Lake of the Torches currently offers three tables --- count 'em, three, bim-bam-boom --- although only one was in action. A second would be started after a bit, with both offering 1/2 NL. The three tables occupied about 40% of what used to be a small 'no smoking' slots parlor that has been re-purposed for poker, though part of the hallway reaching the room was the area under construuction, meaning that the walls were actually 4' x 8' sections of unfinished particle board on their side. Makes a good rail if you don't mind the splinters, by the way, though the view wasn't the greatest.

1/2 NL was about the only game offered on most occasions, I found out. A woman worked as the brush/cashier at a podium tucked next to a pillar, and they used three dealers for the two tables, constantly pushing. Mediocre dealers, by the way; I counted four basic mistakes in two hours times, with the room generally clueless on how to introduce new players to the table. It didn't matter where you took a seat; you got to see the next hand for free. But it's the Northwoods, kids. They can't exactly raid the poker-dealing staff from the casino down the street. Blue-plate poker, to be sure.

And not profitable for me on this occasion, not that I cared much about that. I was down a little, then up a little, then down most of a short, $100 buy-in when I caught a cooler with K-Q against someone's K-J when the flop came K-K-J. He was supposedly the tightest player at the table, too, and he called my raise from UTG pre-flop. (And I was playing tight myself.) Ah, well, lucky him; we were both playing with such few chips by the time I knew he had a big hand I couldn't get away from it anyway.

Then I threw away a winner when a woman two seats to my left made a good play/terrible play on the river. Good play in that she got me out of a nice pot when I would have had the winning trips (sevens) on a paired board with both straight and flush draws in the offing; terrible play in that she made an undersized value bet as a river re-raise when the person who made the original river raise was the one player at the table who would not lay down any sort of a made hand. The total hand cost me maybe $25 for a bad situational read, but it cost her maybe $45 for crass stupidity. That's the sort of night it was.

So I'm down a buy-in. No biggee. I have to say I wasn't impressed by the calibre of the players, and I'm itching for another crack at them. Sometime soon.

No comments: